Climbing Redwoods

If you’ve never traveled to California to view the coastal redwoods, you’ve never properly lived.

Coastal redwoods are the granddaddy of all trees; they are the tallest (up to 350 feet) the widest (20+ feet) and some of the oldest (up to 2,000 years old). And, they are simply remarkable. I’ve been fortunate enough to have stood at the base of these monsters, as well as some of their mountain cousins.

Something I haven’t done, however, is to actually climb one.

Climbing a redwood, as you might imagine, is no easy task. A great article in The New Yorker a few months ago (only partially online here) detailed a small group of hardcore enthusiasts scaling redwoods in search of the world’s tallest. Climbing one involved all sorts of ropes and pulleys and harnesses; this ain’t the backyard apple tree after all! Most fascinating, was the thriving canopy at the highest levels of the trees that are teeming with life and their own miniature ecosystem.

The Wild Trees by Richard Preston focuses on a similar group of tree-lovers who have bid farewell to the concrete world and ensconced themselves in the redwood groves of California.

A recent review of the book by Thomas Curwen paints a alluring vision of the redwoods in an almost lusty manner: “Once you’ve trunk-walked, branch-walked and sky-walked your way some 35 stories above the ground like Spider-Man gone grunge, you can wrap your arms completely around the trunk, interlock fingertips, drink in the moist, spongy, lemony-fragrant wood and secretly consummate your desire.”

Wow. Don’t go looking for some local company to start hoisting tourists up to these upper branches, however. The upper canopies and the treasures they hide 35 stories above ground are only for the serious environmentalist or adventurer who knows his way around the fickle branches and soft furry bark of a 2,000 year old tree.